When it comes to teaching english
as a second language, one of the hardest things to overcome for both students and teacher
s is confidence issues. For students, it can be embarrassing or intimidating to speak in a foreign language among a classroom full of students. What if you say something wrong and they laugh? What if you forget what to say and draw blank? It is because of these kinds of worries that many students are reluctant to openly participate in classroom activities and will have a more difficult time learning things like pronunciation. For teacher
s, it is equally challenging to deal with these kinds of students, because it is crucial to tackle the issue in a delicate way. Some teacher
s have a hard time finding a good way to confront this problem.
The first thing teacher
s should do is establish themselves as someone who the kids
can come to with questions
. From my own personal experience, I did not learn effectively from teacher
s who merely forced the students to participate, with a threat to lower their grade if they did not. It produced an uncomfortable atmosphere in the classroom and I worried too much about getting the chance to speak for my grade than actually absorbing the lesson and speaking because I understood it. The teacher
s that I identified best with were the ones who understood that people had different ways of participating in the lesson, whether it be listening effectively or raising their hand and speaking. And it was usually these teacher
s that had the warmest personalities and made me comfortable coming to them after a lesson with any questions
that I had.
Aside from this, I believe it is important for a teacher
to get to know their students individually. Understanding their personalities will allow the teacher
to take a mental note of who is more outgoing and who is more reluctant to speak. That way, the teacher
can provide the quieter students with more opportunities to speak up in a lesson, or they can pair them up with a more confident student who will give them encouragement. With pair work, it is important to do so strategically if your objective is to open up the quieter students. If you pair them with someone too confident, they could feel even more self conscious about their english
speaking level and clam up even more. teacher
s should pair them up with someone they are familiar with, or someone they have worked with before to help them gain more confidence to participate. Then, after they gain some confidence, they can switch up the pairs a bit.
Last summer, I tutored students at a Korean university at a summer english
camp for an internship, and during this experience I encountered my fair share of reluctant students. I met with a group of 3 girls at a time, and led a conversation topic and just helped them with conversational english
. I remember one girl in particular that I had difficulty with, because she was very quiet, shy and did not look like she wanted to be there. Day after day I tried to come up with interesting and fun topics that might intrigue the students, particularly this one girl, and yet she never seemed to show much interest. However, one day I got lucky and picked a topic she seemed to enjoy, which was music. She finally started smiling and openly conversed with me and the other students about her favorite music artists, music clubs in school, and instruments she played. That single conversation was one of my proudest moments during that whole experience, because after that she began to participate in all of the following discussions and seemed happy to be there. Discovering your students' interests and working them into the lesson is another helpful tool that teacher
s can utilize in opening up reluctant students.
When dealing with shy students, there are a number of ways that a teacher
can go about assisting them and building up their confidence. What is important is to never downplay their ability and hurt their confidence. A teacher
should just try to be encouraging and available to help when needed. And most importantly, a teacher
needs to recognize these students as individuals and act according to their needs.